Dublin station Phantom FM:- Pirate (1997), Temp (2003,2004) and fully-licensed (2006 – 2014)
Became: TXFM in March 2014
Station History:- Beginnings to 2000 (Written by Ger Roe)
Phantom has the roots of its beginnings in Coast 105FM, which was run by Pete Reed, through the early nineties from his garden shed in Ballybrack. Coast 105 closed in February 1996 because it had gone as far as it could in its limited circumstances – and Pete wanted the use of his house back!
The main crew members were still committed to the Indie/Irish music principle and decided to set up a similar station to Coast but with a tighter format and also with the ultimate aim of applying for a licence. So, in August 1996, Spectrum FM was launched as a weekend rock service for Dublin on 100.7MHz and was based in the old Sunset studio site in Sandyford.
In the early days the studio (shed) was shared with Jazz FM who made use of the site and frequency during the week. When Jazz FM moved on to more permanent studios, Spectrum extended it’s hours to include weeknights. When Radio Ireland – now Today FM – was allocated the 100FM area of the band, Spectrum returned to the Coast frequency of 105.3FM.
Two weeks before the station’s first birthday, Spectrum was forced to close but held their already arranged birthday party anyway! The support from the public was so good that the station’s main players decided to give it another go. After much deliberation (down the local) the name was chosen and Phantom 105 began testing on November 23rd 1997. Unfortunately, a violent storm destroyed both the studio and mountain aerial systems and this forced the station off the air in early December. The station returned in January 1998 and, by this time, were also operational on the web as an occasional experiment.
On St Patrick’s Day 1998, new UHF link equipment was installed and the station changed frequency to 91.6FM – which had previously been the link frequency. The station continued to develop until June 30th 1999 when it closed to apply for a Special Interest licence advertised by the IRTC – closure was needed in order to satisfy the requirements of the licence application.
Following the FM closure, the station changed location to Grafton St and carried on operating its full schedule on the internet.
The licence application ended in failure and repeated attempts to attain an explanation from the IRTC also ended in failure. It must be stressed that all possible options to obtain information were exhausted before we made the decision to return to FM in November 1999. Demand from our listeners was coupled with the feeling that we could only highlight our case further by going back on air. And so, we returned with the plan to carry out as much of our licence proposal as possible without the obvious financial backing that would have been available had the station received a licence.
The internet service has been expanded with the introduction of Ph magazine, gigs from local bands have been broadcast live, and we’ve introduced a 20% new Irish music policy across the board…all as promised in our submission.
More developments will be announced in due course. The station also changed location in April 2000.
Originally published on radiowaves.fm’s Phantom FM station page (2007)
QUALITY SOUNDS ONLY
Phantom 105.2 broadcasts an alternative rock service to Dublin on 105.2MHz FM under a ten-year full licence from the BCI. It secured the licence in November 2004 but a legal challenge from an unsuccessful rival bidder delayed the launch of the station until Hallowe’en 2006.
Phantom started life as a pirate, on air for 5½ years (apart from breaks in service to apply for licences) and during that time it earned the respect of the local music industry as well as other already-licensed radio stations.
A series of major raids on unlicensed services in May 2003 led to the station re-evaluating their position. They decided that an all-out attempt at securing a licence was the only way forward and officially ceased broadcasting as an unlicensed FM service at the end of May 2003.
DUBLIN’S WEEKEND ROCK
Later that year they secured a 30 day temporary licence, followed by another the following year. These temporary licences allowed Phantom to broadcast over 14 weekends, keeping the station very much in the public eye as well as catering for its listenership, who are not catered for anywhere else – apart from token alternative music shows.
Having spent a number of years operating from a studio above Whelan’s in Wexford St, the fully-licensed version moved to North Wall Quay in 2016 in time for its eventual launch at Hallowe’en – a time when phantoms traditionally appear.
From launch the licensed Phantom FM did its best to keep the feel of its pirate roots, even winning awards such as the PPI Music Driven Local Station Of The Year in 2007, but, over time, many of their original ideas, and ideals, succumbed to commercial needs, not least thanks to the major financial crash of 2008.
By 2010, the station’s Board had agreed a restructure that allowed Communicorp to take a major stake in the station. Infamously, one of the outgoing investors scribbled ‘death warrant’ on a piece of paper as the vote to restructure took place. As a result, Phantom was eventually relocated to Marconi House in 2011. Unfortunately, there were no champagne corks popping as a result of this studio move. The gloom surrounding the staff was in total contrast to the move into North Wall Quay five years earlier.
Phantom FM, whose humble beginnings saw them operating out of a garden shed, now found themselves sharing a building with Communicorp giants Today FM and Newstalk 106.
Wholesale changes resulted in a number of behind the scenes personnel and on-air presenters leaving the station. The cost-cutting measures also led to the departures of both station founder Simon Maher and Chief Executive Ger Roe.
More job cuts and restructuring in 2014 led to an exceptionally slimmed down and (even) more commercial sounding station, which, by March 30th 2014, had rebranded to TXFM. This followed two weeks of the ‘Spirit of Radio’ haunting the airwaves with a diet of virtually non-stop music and the station identifying as simply “105.2”. It was a sad end to the Phantom FM venture.
It also emerged on the day of the rebrand that there were no bidders for the licence under which Phantom FM operated, which was due for renewal in October 2016.
So, one of the most successful and influential pirate stations of the late ’90s and early ’00s had been reduced – despite the best efforts of the handful of original Phantom presenters who remained – to a burnt out shell of its former, glorious self.
Original Radiowaves Station Review
Phantom FM was set up as a co-operative to fill a large gap in the Dublin radio market and no-one could fill it better. With enthusiasm and professionalism, Phantom have a near-perfect balance and the fact that their two licence applications have ended in mysterious failure has not affected their excellent programming, which consists of a mix of Indie and Irish along with other specialist programming.
Phantom FM have a policy of supporting the local music scene and, unlike their fully-licensed counterparts who make the same claims but find time to play only established artists, Phantom busily promote and also broadcast young, up and coming bands from the local scene.
If they had the financial backing a full-time licence would give them, the collective brains at the station would make them dangerous!
Phantom FM Gallery
The Sunday morning/afternoon team on air at the station’s pirate headquarters above Whelan’s of Wexford St. Pearl, one of the jewels in the station’s schedule [groan – Ed], with her regular early morning show ‘Sunday Morning, Coming Down’ ; and Ger Roe presenting ‘The Anorak Hour’ (click to enlarge).
The Phantom station team alight a ghost bus which was used to deliver their application for the Alternative Rock Music full-time licence to the BCI headquarters in July 2004. Left to right in centre photograph: Simon Maher, Jack Hyland, Aidan Lynch, Ger Roe & ‘Sinister’ Pete Vamos (photos courtesy of allaboutbuses.com – click to enlarge).